This week we are delighted to feature the winner of the ExtraOrdinary Runner Award for May 2009, Heather Gannoe.
In her interview she shares her boundless enthusiasm for running, recovering from a soft-drink addiction, her joy as a mother, and her devotion to her sister.
We think you'll enjoy getting to know more about her running, racing, and life outside of running.
Welcome & Congratulations, Heather!
What was the hardest part of running when you started? How has it changed over the last few years?
The hardest part of running when I started was the actual "starting" itself. It is so hard in the beginning. It hurts, you are sucking wind, you hate it, you wonder why you even bother. But once you start to see results, you realize all of that hurt pays off! And then comes the runners high we all love! Over the years, I've learned that you just have to push through those hard days, because those are the days that will pay off during a race! Without those horrible days, you will never improve. And you will never appreciate the good runs!
How is your running different and how has it changed with kids?
My running is different today because I consider myself in the beginner stages once again. I had to quit running halfway through my last pregnancy due to some complications. And after the baby was born, I had a really hard time adjusting to life with two children for the first few months. So running has been on the backburner for the last year. I'm very happy to be slowly working my way back. The current challenges I face are obviously working around the kids. Many of my runs are done with them in the jog stroller, but I still can't just run out the door whenever I feel like it. First I have to take baby inventory: Is everyone fed? Diapers changed? I have to pack snacks, sippy cups, toys, make sure they are wearing appropriate clothing for the weather...getting ready is almost a workout in itself! We don't have a lot of family in town, and their father and I work opposite shifts, so solo-runs are few and far in between, but it makes me appreciate them that much more! I aspire to one day be one of those "early morning" runners while everyone in the house still sleeps, but with the baby still nursing, he is usually up before I am!
What is your favorite training or racing distance?
My favorite racing distance is the 5k. Just long enough to challenge yourself, but short enough that you can go all out from the start.
What is your favorite race?
I think my favorite race so far has been the Virginia Beach Shamrock 1/2 marathon. It was a beautiful, flat, course, with amazing crowd and race support. And some of the funniest water-stops I've ever seen! I'm running the Virginia Beach Rock and Roll 1/2 marathon this September, I can't wait to go back!
Tell us about your recent breakup with your favorite drink? Why now?
I am a Mountain Dew junkie...hopefully soon to be "former junkie". I would drink it for breakfast like others drink coffee. And then lunch, and then dinner...some days I'm sure most of my caloric intake was from Mountain Dew alone! I've always threatened to quit, but would never make it more than 12 hours without caving in to a craving. This time, a combination between not being able to lose the last 5-10 lbs of baby weight, not being able to survive mornings without caffeine, and knowing that I need to properly fuel my body if I want to become more serious about my running, made me decide to quit for good. I'm currently on day number 5 soda free! I already feel so much better, it's hard to describe! And I've seriously already lost a few pounds! Laying off the soda has also made me lay off the junk food, they seemed to go hand in hand. I'm still craving the Mtn. Dew, I won't lie, it has been hard, but I really haven't had any sort of craving for any junk food.
What is on your list of big running goals?
As most runners can relate, the big goal on my radar is currently a Boston Marathon qualifying time. I hate to admit it, but I didn't properly train for my first two marathons, and my finishing times reflected it. I am in the very beginning stages of training for an October marathon (Baltimore) and plan to really apply myself and stick to the training plan. I know that physically, with training, my body is capable of a 3:40 marathon. I think the hardest part will be training my brain to believe it! Other goals I have are a sub 20:00 5k (even a 19:59 will make me happy!) and in the very BIG picture, I'd love to complete a marathon in all 50 states, plus D.C.
What are your "must have's" for running - gear, gadgets, etc?
A good pair of sneakers and some comfy running clothes are all I need! I currently run in Adidas Supernova Glides. I was a die hard Adidas Brevard fan, but I have been having a hard time finding them, so I switched. Although I don't always run with it, i do love my Garmin 305. I don't utilize the heart rate monitor as much as I should, but I just love knowing my exact distance and pace.
Tell us more about your sister - is she still doing well? How does she feel about your salute to her?
She is doing very well! She just married her sweetheart, Jim, they had the most beautiful wedding this April! Holly is now in the midst of training for Ironman USA in Lake Placid NY this July. I'm not sure how she feels about my salute to her! She is a very humble person, and I think sometimes all of the bragging I do about my awesome sister may seem like a bit much to her. But she really is my best friend and my inspiration, and an inspiration to so many others! Words could never express how very proud I am of her!
Tell us about the Ulman Cancer Fund and your fund raising.
The Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults is a wonderful organization. They provide support programs, education and resources, free of charge, to young adults, their families and friends, who are affected by cancer. It's estimated that around 65,000 15-39 year olds are diagnosed with cancer each year, and in the last 35 years, survival rates for this demographic have NOT improved. There are many cancer organizations out there, but few that deal with this specific age group. Young adults diagnosed with cancer face challenges many others might not have to deal with, such as delayed diagnosis, staying in school, feeling isolated from peers, or even lack of health insurance. I can not imagine what it must be like, fresh out of college and on my own for the first time, only to be blindsided with a cancer diagnosis. I am running the 2009 Baltimore running festival Marathon as a part of the Ulman Cancer Fund's "Team Fight". Not only am I "fighting" to raise money for this organization (I've pledged to raise $1,000) but I'm fighting to help raise awareness for young adult cancer survivors.
Tell us more about the Cancer to 5K program.
Cancer to 5k is one of the awesome programs funded by the Ulman Cancer Fund. It is a free 12-week training program designed to introduce and/or reintroduce cancer survivors to physical activity by providing them with the training program, coaches, encouragement and support necessary to complete a 5K . It was developed by my sister, Holly Shoemaker, who stayed very active throughout her cancer diagnosis and treatment. When you are sick, many may be quick to tell you to "take it easy" and "rest". But there are numerous benefits of exercise for cancer survivors, including stronger immune systems, decreased anxiety and fatigue, and fewer signs and symptoms of depression. It is a fantastic program, now in it's fourth season, and has been incredibly successful in helping numerous survivors achieve their goal of running a 5k. Some of them have already gone as far as running 10ks and half marathons, and a few are even training for their first full marathons! You can learn more about Cancer to 5k at www.cancerto5k.org
Why do you run?
I run for so many reasons! First of all, because I CAN. There are so many people out there who would give anything to be able to run, or even walk for that matter. God gave me a healthy body, and I'll be darned if I'm going to let it go to waste! Second of all, I run because I love running. I may not always love the way I feel during a run, but I always love the way I feel after a run! I have a great T-shirt that says "running is cheaper than therapy". It's so true. Running clears my mind, keeps me sane in this crazy world, and gives me confidence. I love pushing myself to see what my body and my mind can do. I love seeing my training pay off in a P.R. or with an age group placement. And of course there are the health and physical benefits. It's nice to not have to wear "mom jeans"!
What advice would you give other runners?
Never forget why you love this sport. So many times we get caught up in numbers, miles, paces, that we get frustrated with ourselves. It can make you start to resent running, and that's not what it's all about.
What advice would you give running moms?
Make your running a priority, and don't feel guilty about it. So often I hear other moms make excuses like "oh I just don't have the time to run (exercise, etc). There just aren't enough hours in the day". For a second, it makes me feel a little selfish, putting my running in front of other things. But then I realize that not only am I benefiting, but so are my children. They have a happy, healthy mother who is teaching by example how to lead a healthy lifestyle. What will my boys remember in the long run? Their strong, confident mom or the fact that the house was spotless? I'm not saying to totally forget the housework, but the laundry pile isn't going to self destruct if it must wait until tomorrow morning.
What advice would you give family and friends of someone going through cancer diagnosis and treatment?
I would tell them to just be supportive. If anything, I regret not being there more for Holly during her treatment. I was at a very different place in my own life at that point, and I am very thankful that we have become so close since then. But just BE there for that person. Do your research. There are MANY organizations , such as the Ulman Cancer Fund and the LIVESTRONG organization, that are out there to support and help not only the patient but the family as well.
What do you do when you aren't running?
I am headed back to school full time this fall to finish up my bachelors degree in exercise and sports science. I spent three years in school as a marine
science major, feeling kind of lost and uninspired. I took 5 years off
from school before returning and switching to this program, and I
definitely have my love for running to thank for it. I sometimes joke
that when I grow up, I want to be Richard Simmons. But I'm only sort
of joking! I want to inspire and help people to make fitness a part of
I currently work full time as a bartender/waitress at a beach front restaurant. For fun, we love to go to the beach as a family ,which we are very blessed to have easy access to here in South Carolina! I love to surf, although I don't get to do it nearly as much these days (they don't make anything equivalent to the jog stroller in the surfing world!) I love to blog, and when I'm inspired, i love to scrapbook!
You have two beautiful children - tell us more about them and what they are into now. How does that affect your running?
Thank you! Yes, I have been blessed with two wild boys. Rowen is two and a half, and in the middle of the famous terrible twos! He actually isn't that bad, just likes to push Mommy and Daddy's buttons to see exactly what he can and can not get away with! And Kain is now 7 months old, and his favorite thing to do is roll across the floor. You put him down and he's on the other side of the room in the blink of an eye! As I mentioned earlier, it's all about working my run in around them, whether they come with me in the jog stroller or I can leave them at home with Dad. Either way, I still manage to squeeze the run in!
Have you named your Garmin?
Ha ha, yes. His name is "coach". Coach Garmin. I love him and I hate him all at the same time! He pushes me to run faster, but sometimes takes the "fun" out of running. So Coach and I have been trying to find our perfect balance.
Favorite music while running?
Oh this is a tough one! I don't run with music very often, for safety reasons. I never run with music while pushing the kids in the jog stroller, or while racing. But on the treadmill or the occasional solo run when I like to zone out, I find loud, upbeat music works for me. I love the collaboration "Collision Course" between Linkin Park and Jay-Z. The whole CD pushes me!
Any parting comments?
I just wanted to say THANK YOU for allowing me this outlet to spread the word about the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults and Cancer to 5k! If anyone wants any more information, or would like to visit my fundraising page. I'm so glad to have found the Runner's Lounge, and access to runners all over the country!